What Is an Open Gay Marriage?

My marriage has shifted significantly in the last little while. We’re exploring what an open relationship is all about. It was rough going for a bit, but that’s to be expected now and then. We’re seeing a counselor who is helping immensely. I wanted to share what I’m discovering with you.

We’ve told most of the important people in our lives. The responses have been predictable. The queer men saying, “You weren’t open already?”, the straight men “Right on!”, most of the women think it’s the beginning of the end.


What is an Open Gay Marriage

“Open” can mean very different things, which gets confusing. We all want to define things in concrete ways. We want to understand the boundaries of our relationships. But, in an open marriage those boundaries have to shift. Even how the people within the relationship define what open means, can be completely different. It can also change over time.

You Probably Want Different Things

My husband and I are a good example. We started opening up a couple of years ago. My idea. I’d met a guy who I really liked. I wanted to be free to explore him without putting our relationship at risk. For hubby it was mainly about having fun and hooking up.

Ironically he has a boyfriend now, while I’m engaging with people casually, waiting for someone really interesting to come along. I’m not pretending that I’m not struggling a bit right now, but I’ll get through it. The smartest things we’ve done are: prioritize our relationship; and get help from a professional focused on developing guidelines and boundaries. We want everyone involved to be as happy and satisfied as possible.

A Gay Open Marriage can Take Many Forms.

There’s really no point talking about how we’re “doing open”. It seems like everyone comes up with their own spin. There are people who only play when out of town. There are others who can have casual sex but no relationships. There are some for whom playing together is what works best. There are those who are living in communal situations where many relationships are being managed simultaneously. All of these models can, and do, work. But, they don’t all work for everyone any more than traditional marriage does.

Part of the challenge is that we simply don’t have the language to describe the many kinds of relationships that are reality today. I identify as poly because I know I am capable of having deep romantic love for more than one person at a time. But, that’s my definition. For others it refers to multiple people in partnership with one another. Trying to define something as complicated as human relationships in simple terms is never easy. Every relationship is unique. Healthy relationships shift and grow. It’s never easy to push through our comfort zones, so that growth can be painful. Particularly with little support from the culture at large.

Yes, We Do it Better

Gay men seem to be better at defining their relationships on their own terms that other people. I wonder if legal same-sex marriage is going to change that. Hopefully we can add some wisdom to the topic of open relationships and help other people figure our what works best for them and their partner(s).

Own Your Jealousy and Insecurity

If you’re looking at being in an open gay marriage one thing you have to be ready to deal with is jealousy. For some folks a twinge of it might be exciting. For others, like me, jealousy can be powerful and destructive. I’ve had to work hard to deal with the pain, and anger, that comes up around my husband and his other man.

Once I calm myself down, I realize that he is completely committed to me. I actually like the idea of who he’s dating. His new man brings a a valuable perspective to the table for him. I think the relationship will help both of them grow.

Honesty is Key

The one thing that must be in place for any kind of open arrangement to work is honesty. You need to be able to talk openly about what’s going on and how you’re feeling about it. Don’t ask, don’t tell, is a surefire way to destroy your relationship. So, talk about your needs, your desires, your fantasies, then come to an arrangement that works for both of you.

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